Email typos make your brand look sloppy and unprofessional. As an editor, strategist, and writer with more than 15 years of experience editing magazines, newspapers and news sites, blogs, emails, e-books, landing pages, white papers, case studies, video and podcast transcripts, emails, and email newsletters, I’ve encountered millions of typos and grammar faux pas. After a while, nothing surprises you, even from experienced, talented writers.
But, few things get my goat like email typos. I frequently get asked to “Look this email over for me, please” by global marketing heads, CMOs and VPs of content and audience for the major brands I work with when we’re making a pitch to the respective leadership team. I rather enjoy this, and I appreciate the trust it conveys. However, I don’t often get to see all of the emails before they’re sent over—at least not until I receive one as part of the broader group. Often, I cringe.
The typos make me ill.
It’s not that I don’t share documents or emails with typos myself; it’s that the person asking for millions of dollars in budget to get a project approved didn’t take a few minutes to proof the document beforehand. Don’t be one of those people. Follow the five simple tips below to ensure you’re never facepalming after sending an email.
1. Don’t move the cursor. As a former newspaper journalist who now regularly writes columns for large metro dailies, I am accustomed to writing and editing from a monitor, though printing and reading is more effective for catching spelling and grammar mistakes. Assuming you prefer to edit from a digital screen, try this: As you read the document, don’t pick up the cursor. That is, scroll the document using the cursor, advancing it forward one word at a time. Will this take more time? Yes. But it’ll also help you see those pesky misspellings more easily.
2. Print and proof the document. Proofing via the printed page makes it easier to spot errors and syntax issues that are hard to spot on a screen. I learned this from my days as a newspaper business writer, when I realized that the last line of editorial defense, copy editors, always printed the final pages to proof them before they were sent to the printer.
3. Read your emails aloud. There is simply no better way to spot grammar semantics and syntax issues than by reading the document aloud. This prevents your lying eyes from deceiving you and doesn’t allow your brain to fill in the blanks as it does when you read without verbalization.
4. Take a break. You’ve heard of sleeping on an idea to aid greater comprehension and to think more clearly. The same is true with emails. By taking a few minutes to do something else, when you return, your brain has to do some context switching, which can make you more mentally aware, sharper, and better able to spot errors and omissions. In fact, author and psychologist Adam M. Grant says getting away from a task provokes mental clarity and aids problem solving. Use this to your advantage when crafting important emails.
5. Send the message to a friend. Another pair of eyes never hurts when you’re preparing messages you cannot afford to make mistakes in. Shoot a draft of the email to a friend or co-worker for review.
I’m happy to say that, since sharing these techniques and many more just like them, I’m seeing fewer email typos. Try them for yourself and let me know what you think.